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The Humour of Homer and Other Essays by Samuel Butler

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organism as a whole are communicated to the germ-cells after the
manner indicated in Darwin's hypothesis of pangenesis, is wholly
unnecessary for the explanation of these phenomena. Still we cannot
exclude the possibility of such a transmission occasionally
occurring, for even if the greater part of the effects must be
attributable to natural selection, there might be a smaller part in
certain cases which depends on this exceptional factor."

I repeatedly tried to understand Mr. Darwin's theory of pangenesis,
and so often failed that I long since gave the matter up in despair.
I did so with the less unwillingness because I saw that no one else
appeared to understand the theory, and that even Mr. Darwin's
warmest adherents regarded it with disfavour. If Mr. Darwin means
that every cell of the body throws off minute particles that find
their way to the germ-cells, and hence into the new embryo, this is
indeed difficult of comprehension and belief. If he means that the
rhythms or vibrations that go on ceaselessly in every cell of the
body communicate themselves with greater or less accuracy or
perturbation, as the case may be, to the cells that go to form
offspring, and that since the characteristics of matter are
determined by vibrations, in communicating vibrations they in effect
communicate matter, according to the view put forward in the last
chapter of my book Luck or Cunning, then we can better understand
it. I have nothing, however, to do with Mr. Darwin's theory of
pangenesis beyond avoiding the pretence that I understand either the
theory itself or what Professor Weismann says about it; all I am
concerned with is Professor Weismann's admission, made immediately
afterwards, that the somatic cells may, and perhaps sometimes do,
impart characteristics to the germ-cells.

"A complete and satisfactory refutation of such an opinion," he
continues, "cannot be brought forward at present"; so I suppose we
must wait a little longer, but in the meantime we may again remark
that, if we admit even occasional communication of changes in the
somatic cells to the germ-cells, we have let in the thin end of the
wedge, as Mr. Darwin did when he said that use and disuse did a good
deal towards modification. Buffon, in his first volume on the lower
animals, {288} dwells on the impossibility of stopping the breach
once made by admission of variation at all. "If the point," he
writes, "were once gained, that among animals and vegetables there
had been, I do not say several species, but even a single one, which
had been produced in the course of direct descent from another
species; if, for example, it could be once shown that the ass was
but a degeneration from the horse--then there is no farther limit to
be set to the power of Nature, and we should not be wrong in
supposing that with sufficient time she could have evolved all other
organized forms from one primordial type." So with use and disuse
and transmission of acquired characteristics generally--once show
that a single structure or instinct is due to habit in preceding
generations, and we can impose no limit on the results achievable by
accumulation in this respect, nor shall we be wrong in conceiving it
as possible that all specialization, whether of structure or
instinct, may be due ultimately to habit.

How far this can be shown to be probable is, of course, another
matter, but I am not immediately concerned with this; all I am
concerned with now is to show that the germ-cells not unfrequently
become permanently affected by events that have made a profound
impression upon the somatic cells, in so far that they transmit an
obvious reminiscence of the impression to the embryos which they go
subsequently towards forming. This is all that is necessary for my
case, and I do not find that Professor Weismann, after all, disputes

But here, again, comes the difficulty of saying what Professor
Weismann does, and what he does not, dispute. One moment he gives
all that is wanted for the Lamarckian contention, the next he denies
common sense the bare necessaries of life. For a more exhaustive
and detailed criticism of Professor Weismann's position, I would
refer the reader to an admirably clear article by Mr. Sidney H.
Vines, which appeared in Nature, October 24, 1889. I can only say
that while reading Professor Weismann's book, I feel as I do when I
read those of Mr. Darwin, and of a good many other writers on
biology whom I need not name. I become like a fly in a window-pane.
I see the sunshine and freedom beyond, and buzz up and down their
pages, ever hopeful to get through them to the fresh air without,
but ever kept back by a mysterious something, which I feel but
cannot either grasp or see. It was not thus when I read Buffon,
Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck; it is not thus when I read such
articles as Mr. Vines's just referred to. Love of self-display, and
the want of singleness of mind that it inevitably engenders--these,
I suppose, are the sins that glaze the casements of most men's
minds; and from these, no matter how hard he tries to free himself,
nor how much he despises them, who is altogether exempt?

Finally, then, when we consider the immense mass of evidence
referred to briefly, but sufficiently, by Mr. Charles Darwin, and
referred to without other, for the most part, than off-hand
dismissal by Professor Weismann in the last of the essays that have
been recently translated, I do not see how anyone who brings an
unbiased mind to the question can hesitate as to the side on which
the weight of testimony inclines. Professor Weismann declares that
"the transmission of mutilations may be dismissed into the domain of
fable." {290} If so, then, whom can we trust? What is the use of
science at all if the conclusions of a man as competent as I readily
admit Mr. Darwin to have been, on the evidence laid before him from
countless sources, is to be set aside lightly and without giving the
clearest and most cogent explanation of the why and wherefore? When
we see a person "ostrichizing" the evidence which he has to meet, as
clearly as I believe Professor Weismann to be doing, we shall in
nine cases out of ten be right in supposing that he knows the
evidence to be too strong for him.

The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part III

Now let me return to the recent division of biological opinion into
two main streams--Lamarckism and Weismannism. Both Lamarckians and
Weismannists, not to mention mankind in general, admit that the
better adapted to its surroundings a living form may be, the more
likely it is to outbreed its compeers. The world at large, again,
needs not to be told that the normal course is not unfrequently
deflected through the fortunes of war; nevertheless, according to
Lamarckians and Erasmus-Darwinians, habitual effort, guided by ever-
growing intelligence--that is to say, by continued increase of power
in the matter of knowing our likes and dislikes--has been so much
the main factor throughout the course of organic development, that
the rest, though not lost sight of, may be allowed to go without
saying. According, on the other hand, to extreme Charles-Darwinians
and Weismannists, habit, effort and intelligence acquired during the
experience of any one life goes for nothing. Not even a little
fraction of it endures to the benefit of offspring. It dies with
him in whom it is acquired, and the heirs of a man's body take no
interest therein. To state this doctrine is to arouse instinctive
loathing; it is my fortunate task to maintain that such a nightmare
of waste and death is as baseless as it is repulsive.

The split in biological opinion occasioned by the deadlock to which
Charles-Darwinism has been reduced, though comparatively recent,
widens rapidly. Ten years ago Lamarck's name was mentioned only as
a byword for extravagance; now, we cannot take up a number of Nature
without seeing how hot the contention is between his followers and
those of Weismann. This must be referred, as I implied earlier, to
growing perception that Mr. Darwin should either have gone farther
towards Lamarckism or not so far. In admitting use and disuse as
freely as he did, he gave Lamarckians leverage for the overthrow of
a system based ostensibly on the accumulation of fortunate
accidents. In assigning the lion's share of development to the
accumulation of fortunate accidents, he tempted fortuitists to try
to cut the ground from under Lamarck's feet by denying that the
effects of use and disuse can be inherited at all. When the public
had once got to understand what Lamarck had intended, and wherein
Mr. Charles Darwin had differed from him, it became impossible for
Charles-Darwinians to remain where they were, nor is it easy to see
what course was open to them except to cast about for a theory by
which they could get rid of use and disuse altogether. Weismannism,
therefore, is the inevitable outcome of the straits to which
Charles-Darwinians were reduced through the way in which their
leader had halted between two opinions.

This is why Charles-Darwinians, from Professor Huxley downwards,
have kept the difference between Lamarck's opinions and those of Mr.
Darwin so much in the background. Unwillingness to make this
understood is nowhere manifested more clearly than in Dr. Francis
Darwin's life of his father. In this work Lamarck is sneered at
once or twice and told to go away, but there is no attempt to state
the two cases side by side; from which, as from not a little else, I
conclude that Dr. Francis Darwin has descended from his father with
singularly little modification.

Proceeding to the evidence for the transmissions of acquired habits,
I will quote two recently adduced examples from among the many that
have been credibly attested. The first was contributed to Nature
(March 14, 1889) by Professor Marcus M. Hartog, who wrote:--

"A. B. is moderately myopic and very astigmatic in the left eye;
extremely myopic in the right. As the left eye gave such bad images
for near objects, he was compelled in childhood to mask it, and
acquired the habit of leaning his head on his left arm for writing,
so as to blind that eye, or of resting the left temple and eye on
the hand, with the elbow on the table. At the age of fifteen the
eyes were equalized by the use of suitable spectacles, and he soon
lost the habit completely and permanently. He is now the father of
two children, a boy and a girl, whose vision (tested repeatedly and
fully) is emmetropic in both eyes, so that they have not inherited
the congenital optical defect of their father. All the same, they
have both of them inherited his early acquired habit, and need
constant watchfulness to prevent their hiding the left eye when
writing, by resting the head on the left forearm or hand. Imitation
is here quite out of the question.

"Considering that every habit involves changes in the proportional
development of the muscular and osseous systems, and hence probably
of the nervous system also, the importance of inherited habits,
natural or acquired, cannot be overlooked in the general theory of
inheritance. I am fully aware that I shall be accused of flat
Lamarckism, but a nickname is not an argument."

To this Professor Ray Lankester rejoined (Nature, March 21, 1889):--

"It is not unusual for children to rest the head on the left forearm
or hand when writing, and I doubt whether much value can be attached
to the case described by Professor Hartog. The kind of observation
which his letter suggests is, however, likely to lead to results
either for or against the transmission of acquired characters. An
old friend of mine lost his right arm when a schoolboy, and has ever
since written with his left. He has a large family and
grandchildren, but I have not heard of any of them showing a
disposition to left-handedness."

From Nature (March 21, 1889) I take the second instance communicated
by Mr. J. Jenner-Weir, who wrote as follows:--

"Mr. Marcus M. Hartog's letter of March 6th, inserted in last week's
number (p. 462), is a very valuable contribution to the growing
evidence that acquired characters may be inherited. I have long
held the view that such is often the case, and I have myself
observed several instances of the, at least I may say, apparent

"Many years ago there was a very fine male of the Capra megaceros in
the gardens of the Zoological Society. To restrain this animal from
jumping over the fence of the enclosure in which he was confined, a
long and heavy chain was attached to the collar round his neck. He
was constantly in the habit of taking this chain up by his horns and
moving it from one side to another over his back; in doing this he
threw his head very much back, his horns being placed in a line with
the back. The habit had become quite chronic with him, and was very
tiresome to look at. I was very much astonished to observe that his
offspring inherited the habit, and although it was not necessary to
attach a chain to their necks, I have often seen a young male
throwing his horns over his back and shifting from side to side an
imaginary chain. The action was exactly the same as that of his
ancestor. The case of the kid of this goat appears to me to be
parallel to that of child and parent given by Mr. Hartog. I think
at the time I made this observation I informed Mr. Darwin of the
fact by letter, and he did not accuse me of 'flat Lamarckism.'"

To this letter there was no rejoinder. It may be said, of course,
that the action of the offspring in each of these cases was due to
accidental coincidence only. Anything can be said, but the question
turns not on what an advocate can say, but on what a reasonably
intelligent and disinterested jury will believe; granted they might
be mistaken in accepting the foregoing stories, but the world of
science, like that of commerce, is based on the faith or confidence
which both creates and sustains them. Indeed the universe itself is
but the creature of faith, for assuredly we know of no other
foundation. There is nothing so generally and reasonably accepted--
not even our own continued identity--but questions may be raised
about it that will shortly prove unanswerable. We cannot so test
every sixpence given us in change as to be sure that we never take a
bad one, and had better sometimes be cheated than reduce caution to
an absurdity. Moreover, we have seen from the evidence given in my
preceding article that the germ-cells issuing from a parent's body
can, and do, respond to profound impressions made on the somatic
cells. This being so, what impressions are more profound, what
needs engage more assiduous attention than those connected with
self-protection, the procuring of food, and the continuation of the
species? If the mere anxiety connected with an ill-healing wound
inflicted on but one generation is sometimes found to have so
impressed the germ-cells that they hand down its scars to offspring,
how much more shall not anxieties that have directed action of all
kinds from birth till death, not in one generation only but in a
longer series of generations than the mind can realize to itself,
modify, and indeed control, the organization of every species?

I see Professor S. H. Vines, in the article on Weismann's theory
referred to in my preceding article, says Mr. Darwin "held that it
was not the sudden variations due to altered external conditions
which become permanent, but those slowly produced by what he termed
'the accumulative action of changed conditions of life.'" Nothing
can be more soundly Lamarckian, and nothing should more conclusively
show that, whatever else Mr. Darwin was, he was not a Charles-
Darwinian; but what evidence other than inferential can from the
nature of the case be adduced in support of this, as I believe,
perfectly correct judgment? None know better than they who clamour
for direct evidence that their master was right in taking the
position assigned to him by Professor Vines, that they cannot
reasonably look for it. With us, as with themselves, modification
proceeds very gradually, and it violates our principles as much as
their own to expect visible permanent progress, in any single
generation, or indeed in any number of generations of wild species
which we have yet had time to observe. Occasionally we can find
such cases, as in that of Branchipus stagnalis, quoted by Mr.
Wallace, or in that of the New Zealand Kea whose skin, I was assured
by the late Sir Julius von Haast, has already been modified as a
consequence of its change of food. Here we can show that in even a
few generations structure is modified under changed conditions of
existence, but as we believe these cases to occur comparatively
rarely, so it is still more rarely that they occur when and where we
can watch them. Nature is eminently conservative, and fixity of
type, even under considerable change of conditions, is surely more
important for the well-being of any species than an over-ready power
of adaptation to, it may be, passing changes. There could be no
steady progress if each generation were not mainly bound by the
traditions of those that have gone before it. It is evolution and
not incessant revolution that both parties are upholding; and this
being so, rapid visible modification must be the exception, not the
rule. I have quoted direct evidence adduced by competent observers,
which is, I believe, sufficient to establish the fact that offspring
can be and is sometimes modified by the acquired habits of a
progenitor. I will now proceed to the still more, as it appears to
me, cogent proof afforded by general considerations.

What, let me ask, are the principal phenomena of heredity? There
must be physical continuity between parent, or parents, and
offspring, so that the offspring is, as Erasmus Darwin well said, a
kind of elongation of the life of the parent.

Erasmus Darwin put the matter so well that I may as well give his
words in full; he wrote:--

"Owing to the imperfection of language the offspring is termed a new
animal, but is in truth a branch or elongation of the parent, since
a part of the embryon animal is, or was, a part of the parent, and
therefore, in strict language, cannot be said to be entirely new at
the time of its production; and therefore it may retain some of the
habits of the parent system.

"At the earliest period of its existence the embryon would seem to
consist of a living filament with certain capabilities of
irritation, sensation, volition, and association, and also with some
acquired habits or propensities peculiar to the parent; the former
of these are in common with other animals; the latter seem to
distinguish or produce the kind of animal, whether man or quadruped,
with the similarity of feature or form to the parent." {299}

Those who accept evolution insist on unbroken physical continuity
between the earliest known life and ourselves, so that we both are
and are not personally identical with the unicellular organism from
which we have descended in the course of many millions of years,
exactly in the same ways as an octogenarian both is and is not
personally identical with the microscopic impregnate ovum from which
he grew up. Everything both is and is not. There is no such thing
as strict identity between any two things in any two consecutive
seconds. In strictness they are identical and yet not identical, so
that in strictness they violate a fundamental rule of strictness--
namely, that a thing shall never be itself and not itself at one and
the same time; we must choose between logic and dealing in a
practical spirit with time and space; it is not surprising,
therefore, that logic, in spite of the show of respect outwardly
paid to her, is told to stand aside when people come to practice.
In practice identity is generally held to exist where continuity is
only broken slowly and piecemeal; nevertheless, that occasional
periods of even rapid change are not held to bar identity, appears
from the fact that no one denies this to hold between the
microscopically small impregnate ovum and the born child that
springs from it, nor yet, therefore, between the impregnate ovum and
the octogenarian into which the child grows; for both ovum and
octogenarian are held personally identical with the new-born baby,
and things that are identical with the same are identical with one

The first, then, and most important element of heredity is that
there should be unbroken continuity, and hence sameness of
personality, between parents and offspring, in neither more nor less
than the same sense as that in which any other two personalities are
said to be the same. The repetition, therefore, of its
developmental stages by any offspring must be regarded as something
which the embryo repeating them has already done once, in the person
of one or other parent; and if once, then, as many times as there
have been generations between any given embryo now repeating it, and
the point in life from which we started--say, for example, the
amoeba. In the case of asexually and sexually produced organisms
alike, the offspring must be held to continue the personality of the
parent or parents, and hence on the occasion of every fresh
development, to be repeating something which in the person of its
parent or parents it has done once, and if once, then any number of
times, already.

It is obvious, therefore, that the germ-plasm (or whatever the fancy
word for it may be) of any one generation is as physically identical
with the germ-plasm of its predecessor as any two things can be.
The difference between Professor Weismann and, we will say,
Heringians consists in the fact that the first maintains the new
germ-plasm when on the point of repeating its developmental
processes to take practically no cognisance of anything that has
happened to it since the last occasion on which it developed itself;
while the latter maintain that offspring takes much the same kind of
account of what has happened to it in the persons of its parents
since the last occasion on which it developed itself, as people in
ordinary life take things that happen to them. In daily life people
let fairly normal circumstances come and go without much heed as
matters of course. If they have been lucky they make a note of it
and try to repeat their success. If they have been unfortunate but
have recovered rapidly they soon forget it; if they have suffered
long and deeply they grizzle over it and are scared and scarred by
it for a long time. The question is one of cognisance or non-
cognisance on the part of the new germs, of the more profound
impressions made on them while they were one with their parents,
between the occasion of their last preceding development and the new
course on which they are about to enter. Those who accept the
theory put forward independently by Professor Hering of Prague
(whose work on this subject is translated in my book Unconscious
Memory) and by myself in Life and Habit, believe in cognisance as do
Lamarckians generally. Weismannites, and with them the orthodoxy of
English science, find non-cognisance more acceptable.

If the Heringian view is accepted, that heredity is only a mode of
memory, and an extension of memory from one generation to another,
then the repetition of its development by any embryo thus becomes
only the repetition of a lesson learned by rote; and, as I have
elsewhere said, our view of life is simplified by finding that it is
no longer an equation of, say, a hundred unknown quantities, but of
ninety-nine only, inasmuch as two of the unknown quantities prove to
be substantially identical. In this case the inheritance of
acquired characteristics cannot be disputed, for it is postulated in
the theory that each embryo takes note of, remembers and is guided
by the profounder impressions made upon it while in the persons of
its parents, between its present and last preceding development. To
maintain this is to maintain use and disuse to be the main factors
throughout organic development; to deny it is to deny that use and
disuse can have any conceivable effect. For the detailed reasons
which led me to my own conclusions I must refer the reader to my
books Life and Habit and Unconscious Memory, the conclusions of
which have been often adopted, but never, that I have seen,
disputed. A brief resume of the leading points in the argument is
all that space will here allow me to give.

We have seen that it is a first requirement of heredity that there
shall be physical continuity between parents and offspring. This
holds good with memory. There must be continued identity between
the person remembering and the person to whom the thing that is
remembered happened. We cannot remember things that happened to
someone else, and in our absence. We can only remember having heard
of them. We have seen, however, that there is as much bona-fide
sameness of personality between parents and offspring up to the time
at which the offspring quits the parent's body, as there is between
the different states of the parent himself at any two consecutive
moments; the offspring therefore, being one and the same person with
its progenitors until it quits them, can be held to remember what
happened to them within, of course, the limitations to which all
memory is subject, as much as the progenitors can remember what
happened earlier to themselves. Whether it does so remember can
only be settled by observing whether it acts as living beings
commonly do when they are acting under guidance of memory. I will
endeavour to show that, though heredity and habit based on memory go
about in different dresses, yet if we catch them separately--for
they are never seen together--and strip them there is not a mole nor
strawberry-mark nor trick nor leer of the one, but we find it in the
other also.

What are the moles and strawberry-marks of habitual action, or
actions remembered and thus repeated? First, the more often we
repeat them the more easily and unconsciously we do them. Look at
reading, writing, walking, talking, playing the piano, etc.; the
longer we have practised any one of these acquired habits, the more
easily, automatically and unconsciously, we perform it. Look, on
the other hand, broadly, at the three points to which I called
attention in Life and Habit:--

I. That we are most conscious of and have most control over such
habits as speech, the upright position, the arts and sciences--which
are acquisitions peculiar to the human race, always acquired after
birth, and not common to ourselves and any ancestor who had not
become entirely human.

II. That we are less conscious of and have less control over eating
and drinking [provided the food be normal], swallowing, breathing,
seeing, and hearing--which were acquisitions of our prehuman
ancestry, and for which we had provided ourselves with all the
necessary apparatus before we saw light, but which are still,
geologically speaking, recent.

III. That we are most unconscious of and have least control over
our digestion and circulation--powers possessed even by our
invertebrate ancestry, and, geologically speaking, of extreme

I have put the foregoing very broadly, but enough is given to show
the reader the gist of the argument. Let it be noted that
disturbance and departure, to any serious extent, from normal
practice tends to induce resumption of consciousness even in the
case of such old habits as breathing, seeing, and hearing, digestion
and the circulation of the blood. So it is with habitual actions in
general. Let a player be never so proficient on any instrument, he
will be put out if the normal conditions under which he plays are
too widely departed from, and will then do consciously, if indeed he
can do it at all, what he had hitherto been doing unconsciously. It
is an axiom as regards actions acquired after birth, that we never
do them automatically save as the result of long practice; the
stages in the case of any acquired facility, the inception of which
we have been able to watch, have invariably been from a nothingness
of ignorant impotence to a little somethingness of highly self-
conscious, arduous performance, and thence to the
unselfconsciousness of easy mastery. I saw one year a poor blind
lad of about eighteen sitting on a wall by the wayside at Varese,
playing the concertina with his whole body, and snorting like a
child. The next year the boy no longer snorted, and he played with
his fingers only; the year after that he seemed hardly to know
whether he was playing or not, it came so easily to him. I know no
exception to this rule. Where is the intricate and at one time
difficult art in which perfect automatic ease has been reached
except as the result of long practice? If, then, wherever we can
trace the development of automatism we find it to have taken this
course, is it not most reasonable to infer that it has taken the
same even when it has risen in regions that are beyond our ken?
Ought we not, whenever we see a difficult action performed
automatically, to suspect antecedent practice? Granted that without
the considerations in regard to identity presented above it would
not have been easy to see where a baby of a day old could have had
the practice which enables it to do as much as it does
unconsciously, but even without these considerations it would have
been more easy to suppose that the necessary opportunities had not
been wanting, than that the easy performance could have been gained
without practice and memory.

When I wrote Life and Habit (originally published in 1877) I said in
slightly different words:--

"Shall we say that a baby of a day old sucks (which involves the
whole principle of the pump and hence a profound practical knowledge
of the laws of pneumatics and hydrostatics), digests, oxygenizes its
blood--millions of years before anyone had discovered oxygen--sees
and hears, operations that involve an unconscious knowledge of the
facts concerning optics and acoustics compared with which the
conscious discoveries of Newton are insignificant--shall we say that
a baby can do all these things at once, doing them so well and so
regularly without being even able to give them attention, and yet
without mistake, and shall we also say at the same time that it has
not learnt to do them, and never did them before?

"Such an assertion would contradict the whole experience of

I have met with nothing during the thirteen years since the
foregoing was published that has given me any qualms about its
soundness. From the point of view of the law courts and everyday
life it is, of course, nonsense; but in the kingdom of thought, as
in that of heaven, there are many mansions, and what would be
extravagance in the cottage or farm-house, as it were, of daily
practice, is but common decency in the palace of high philosophy,
wherein dwells evolution. If we leave evolution alone, we may stick
to common practice and the law courts; touch evolution and we are in
another world; not higher, nor lower, but different as harmony from
counterpoint. As, however, in the most absolute counterpoint there
is still harmony, and in the most absolute harmony still
counterpoint, so high philosophy should be still in touch with
common sense, and common sense with high philosophy.

The common-sense view of the matter to people who are not over-
curious and to whom time is money, will be that a baby is not a baby
until it is born, and that when born it should be born in wedlock.
Nevertheless, as a sop to high philosophy, every baby is allowed to
be the offspring of its father and mother.

The high-philosophy view of the matter is that every human being is
still but a fresh edition of the primordial cell with the latest
additions and corrections; there has been no leap nor break in
continuity anywhere; the man of to-day is the primordial cell of
millions of years ago as truly as he is the himself of yesterday; he
can only be denied to be the one on grounds that will prove him not
to be the other. Everyone is both himself and all his direct
ancestors and descendants as well; therefore, if we would be
logical, he is one also with all his cousins, no matter how distant,
for he and they are alike identical with the primordial cell, and we
have already noted it as an axiom that things which are identical
with the same are identical with one another. This is practically
making him one with all living things, whether animal or vegetable,
that ever have existed or ever will--something of all which may have
been in the mind of Sophocles when he wrote:--

"Nor seest thou yet the gathering hosts of ill
That shall en-one thee both with thine own self
And with thine offspring."

And all this has come of admitting that a man may be the same person
for two days running! As for sopping common sense it will be enough
to say that these remarks are to be taken in a strictly scientific
sense, and have no appreciable importance as regards life and
conduct. True they deal with the foundations on which all life and
conduct are based, but like other foundations they are hidden out of
sight, and the sounder they are, the less we trouble ourselves about

What other main common features between heredity and memory may we
note besides the fact that neither can exist without that kind of
physical continuity which we call personal identity? First, the
development of the embryo proceeds in an established order; so must
all habitual actions based on memory. Disturb the normal order and
the performance is arrested. The better we know "God save the
Queen," the less easily can we play or sing it backwards. The
return of memory again depends on the return of ideas associated
with the particular thing that is remembered--we remember nothing
but for the presence of these, and when enough of these are
presented to us we remember everything. So, if the development of
an embryo is due to memory, we should suppose the memory of the
impregnate ovum to revert not to yesterday, when it was in the
persons of its parents, but to the last occasion on which it was an
impregnate ovum. The return of the old environment and the presence
of old associations would at once involve recollection of the course
that should be next taken, and the same should happen throughout the
whole course of development. The actual course of development
presents precisely the phenomena agreeable with this. For fuller
treatment of this point I must refer the reader to the chapter on
the abeyance of memory in my book Life and Habit, already referred

Secondly, we remember best our last few performances of any given
kind, so our present performance will probably resemble some one or
other of these; we remember our earlier performances by way of
residuum only, but every now and then we revert to an earlier habit.
This feature of memory is manifested in heredity by the way in which
offspring commonly resembles most its nearer ancestors, but
sometimes reverts to earlier ones. Brothers and sisters, each as it
were giving their own version of the same story, but in different
words, should generally resemble each other more closely than more
distant relations. And this is what actually we find.

Thirdly, the introduction of slightly new elements into a method
already established varies it beneficially; the new is soon fused
with the old, and the monotony ceases to be oppressive. But if the
new be too foreign, we cannot fuse the old and the new--nature
seeming to hate equally too wide a deviation from ordinary practice
and none at all. This fact reappears in heredity as the beneficial
effects of occasional crossing on the one hand, and on the other, in
the generally observed sterility of hybrids. If heredity be an
affair of memory, how can an embryo, say of a mule, be expected to
build up a mule on the strength of but two mule-memories? Hybridism
causes a fault in the chain of memory, and it is to this cause that
the usual sterility of hybrids must be referred.

Fourthly, it requires many repeated impressions to fix a method
firmly, but when it has been engrained into us we cease to have much
recollection of the manner in which it came to be so, or indeed of
any individual repetition, but sometimes a single impression if
prolonged as well as profound, produces a lasting impression and is
liable to return with sudden force, and then to go on returning to
us at intervals. As a general rule, however, abnormal impressions
cannot long hold their own against the overwhelming preponderance of
normal authority. This appears in heredity as the normal non-
inheritance of mutilations on the one hand, and on the other as
their occasional inheritance in the case of injuries followed by

Fifthly, if heredity and memory are essentially the same, we should
expect that no animal would develop new structures of importance
after the age at which its species begins ordinarily to continue its
race; for we cannot suppose offspring to remember anything that
happens to the parent subsequently to the parent's ceasing to
contain the offspring within itself. From the average age,
therefore, of reproduction, offspring should cease to have any
further steady, continuous memory to fall back upon; what memory
there is should be full of faults, and as such unreliable. An
organism ought to develop as long as it is backed by memory--that is
to say, until the average age at which reproduction begins; it
should then continue to go for a time on the impetus already
received, and should eventually decay through failure of any memory
to support it, and tell it what to do. This corresponds absolutely
with what we observe in organisms generally, and explains, on the
one hand, why the age of puberty marks the beginning of completed
development--a riddle hitherto not only unexplained but, so far as I
have seen, unasked; it explains, on the other hand, the phenomena of
old age--hitherto without even attempt at explanation.

Sixthly, those organisms that are the longest in reaching maturity
should on the average be the longest-lived, for they will have
received the most momentous impulse from the weight of memory behind
them. This harmonizes with the latest opinion as to the facts. In
his article of Weismann in the Contemporary Review for May, 1890,
Mr. Romanes writes: "Professor Weismann has shown that there is
throughout the metazoa a general correlation between the natural
lifetime of individuals composing any given species, and the age at
which they reach maturity or first become capable of procreation."
This, I believe, has been the conclusion generally arrived at by
biologists for some years past.

Lateness, then, in the average age of reproduction appears to be the
principle underlying longevity. There does not appear at first
sight to be much connection between such distinct and apparently
disconnected phenomena as 1, the orderly normal progress of
development; 2, atavism and the resumption of feral characteristics;
3, the more ordinary resemblance inter se of nearer relatives; 4,
the benefit of an occasional cross, and the usual sterility of
hybrids; 5, the unconsciousness with which alike bodily development
and ordinary physiological functions proceed, so long as they are
normal; 6, the ordinary non-inheritance, but occasional inheritance
of mutilations; 7, the fact that puberty indicates the approach of
maturity; 8, the phenomena of middle life and old age; 9, the
principle underlying longevity. These phenomena have no conceivable
bearing on one another until heredity and memory are regarded as
part of the same story. Identify these two things, and I know no
phenomenon of heredity that does not immediately become infinitely
more intelligible. Is it conceivable that a theory which harmonizes
so many facts hitherto regarded as without either connection or
explanation should not deserve at any rate consideration from those
who profess to take an interest in biology?

It is not as though the theory were unknown, or had been condemned
by our leading men of science. Professor Ray Lankester introduced
it to English readers in an appreciative notice of Professor
Hering's address, which appeared in Nature, July 13, 1876. He wrote
to the Athenaeum, March 24, 1884, and claimed credit for having done
so, but I do not believe he has ever said more in public about it
than what I have here referred to. Mr. Romanes did indeed try to
crush it in Nature, January 27,1881, but in 1883, in his Mental
Evolution in Animals, he adopted its main conclusion without
acknowledgment. The Athenaeum, to my unbounded surprise, called him
to task for this (March 1, 1884), and since that time he has given
the Heringian theory a sufficiently wide berth. Mr. Wallace showed
himself favourably enough disposed towards the view that heredity
and memory are part of the same story when he reviewed my book Life
and Habit in Nature, March 27, 1879, but he has never since betrayed
any sign of being aware that such a theory existed. Mr. Herbert
Spencer wrote to the Athenaeum (April 5, 1884), and claimed the
theory for himself, but, in spite of his doing this, he has never,
that I have seen, referred to the matter again. I have dealt
sufficiently with his claim in my book Luck or Cunning. Lastly,
Professor Hering himself has never that I know of touched his own
theory since the single short address read in 1870, and translated
by me in 1881. Everyone, even its originator, except myself, seems
afraid to open his mouth about it. Of course the inference suggests
itself that other people have more sense than I have. I readily
admit it; but why have so many of our leaders shown such a strong
hankering after the theory, if there is nothing in it?

The deadlock that I have pointed out as existing in Darwinism will,
I doubt not, lead ere long to a consideration of Professor Hering's
theory. English biologists are little likely to find Weismann
satisfactory for long, and if he breaks down there is nothing left
for them but Lamarck, supplemented by the important and elucidatory
corollary on his theory proposed by Professor Hering. When the time
arrives for this to obtain a hearing it will be confirmed,
doubtless, by arguments clearer and more forcible than any I have
been able to adduce; I shall then be delighted to resign the
championship which till then I shall continue, as for some years
past, to have much pleasure in sustaining. Heretofore my
satisfaction has mainly lain in the fact that more of our prominent
men of science have seemed anxious to claim the theory than to
refute it; in the confidence thus engendered I leave it to any
fuller consideration which the outline I have above given may
incline the reader to bestow upon it.


{19} I am indebted to one of Butler's contemporaries at Cambridge,
the Rev Dr. T. G. Bonney, F.R.S., and also to Mr. John F. Harris,
both of St. John's College, for help in finding and dating Butler's
youthful contributions to the Eagle.

{20} This gentleman, on the death of his father in 1866, became the
Rev. Sir Philip Perring, Bart.

{22} The late Sir Julius von Haast, K.C.M.G., appointed Provincial
Geologist in 1860, was ennobled by the Austrian Government and
knighted by the British. He died in 1887.

{59} A lecture delivered at the Working Men's College, Great Ormond
Street, 30th January, 1892.

{99} Published in the Universal Review, July, 1888.

{110} Published in the Universal Review, December, 1890.

{127} Published in the Universal Review, May, 1889. As I have
several times been asked if the letters here reprinted were not
fabricated by Butler himself, I take this opportunity of stating
that they are authentic in every particular, and that the originals
are now in my possession.--R. A. S.

{142} An address delivered at the Somerville Club, February 27th,

{150} The Foundations of Belief, by the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour.
Longmans, 1895, p. 48.

{153a} Published in the Universal Review, November, 1888.

{153b} Since this essay was written it has been ascertained by
Cavaliere Francesco Negri, of Casale Monferrato, that Tabachetti
died in 1615. If, therefore, the Sanctuary of Montrigone was not
founded until 1631, it is plain that Tabachetti cannot have worked
there. All the latest discoveries about Tabachetti's career will be
found in Cavaliere Negri's pamphlet Il Santuario di Crea
(Alessandria, 1902). See also note on p. 195.--R. A. S.

{166} Published in the Universal Review, December, 1889.

{188} Published in the Universal Review, November, 1890.

{190} M. Ruppen's words run: "1687 wurde die Kapelle zur hohen
Stiege gebaut, 1747 durch Zusatz vergrossert und 1755 mit Orgeln
ausgestattet. Anton Ruppen, ein geschickter Steinhauer und
Maurermeister leitete den Kapellebau, und machte darin das kleinere
Altarlein. Bei der hohen Stiege war fruher kein Gebetshauslein; nur
ein wunderthatiges Bildlein der Mutter Gottes stand da in einer
Mauer vor dem fromme Hirten und viel andachtiges Volk unter freiem
Himmel beteten.

"1709 wurden die kleinen Kapellelein die 15 Geheimnisse des Psalters
vorstellend auf dem Wege zur hohen Stiege gebaut. Jeder Haushalter
des Viertels Fee ubernahm den Bau eines dieser Geheimnisskapellen,
und ein besonderer Gutthater dieser frommen Unternehmung war
Heinrich Andenmatten, nachhet Bruder der Gesellschaft Jesu."

{195} The story of Tabachetti's insanity and imprisonment is very
doubtful, and it is difficult to make his supposed visit to Saas fit
in with the authentic facts of his life. Cavaliere Negri, to whose
pamphlet on Tabachetti I have already referred the reader, mentions
neither. Tabachetti left his native Dinant in 1585, and from that
date until his death he appears to have lived chiefly at Varallo and
Crea. In 1588 he was working at Crea; in 1590 he was at Varallo and
again in 1594, 1599, and 1602. He died in 1615, possibly during a
visit to Varallo, though his home at the time was at Costigliole,
near Asti.--R. A. S.

{196} This is thus chronicled by M. Ruppen: "1589 den 9 September
war eine Wassergrosse, die viel Schaden verursachte. Die
Thalstrasse, die von den Steinmatten an bis zur Kirche am Ufer der
Visp lag, wurde ganz zerstort. Man ward gezwungen eine neue Strasse
in einiger Entfernung vom Wasser durch einen alten Fussweg
auszuhauen welche vier und einerhalben Viertel der Klafter, oder 6
Schuh und 9 Zoll breit sollte" (p. 43).

{209} A lecture delivered at the Working Men's College in Great
Ormond Street, March 15th, 1890; rewritten and delivered again at
the Somerville Club, February 13th, 1894.

{210} Correlation of Forces, Longmans, 1874, p. 15.

{230} Three Lectures on the Science of Language, Longmans, 1889, p.

{234} Science of Thought, Longmans, 1887, p. 9.

{245} Published in the Universal Review, April, May, and June,

{259a} Voyages of the "Adventure" and "Beagle," iii. p. 237.

{259b} Luck or Cunning, pp. 170, 180.

{260} Journals of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology,
vol. iii.), 1859, p. 62.

{261} Darwinism (Macmillan, 1889), p. 129.

{263} See Nature, March 6, 1890.

{265} Origin of Species, sixth edition, 1888, vol. i. p. 168.

{266} Origin of Species, sixth edition, 1888, vol. ii. p. 261.

{271} Mr. J. T. Cunningham, of the Marine Biological Laboratory,
Plymouth, has called my attention to the fact that I have ascribed
to Professor Ray Lankester a criticism on Mr. Wallace's remarks upon
the eyes of certain flat-fish, which Professor Ray Lankester was, in
reality, only adopting--with full acknowledgment--from Mr.
Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham has left it to me whether to correct my
omission publicly or not, but he would so plainly prefer my doing so
that I consider myself bound to insert this note. Curiously enough,
I find that in my book Evolution, Old and New I gave what Lamarck
actually said upon the eyes of flat-fish, and, having been led to
return to the subject, I may as well quote his words. He wrote:--

"Need--always occasioned by the circumstances in which an animal is
placed, and followed by sustained efforts at gratification--can not
only modify an organ--that is to say, augment or reduce it--but can
change its position when the case requires its removal.

"Ocean fishes have occasion to see what is on either side of them,
and have their eyes accordingly placed on either side of their head.
Some fishes, however, have their abode near coasts on submarine
banks and inclinations, and are thus forced to flatten themselves as
much as possible in order to get as near as they can to the shore.
In this situation they receive more light from above than from
below, and find it necessary to pay attention to whatever happens to
be above them; this need has involved the displacement of their
eyes, which now take the remarkable position which we observe in the
case of soles, turbots, plaice, etc. The transfer of position is
not even yet complete in the case of these fishes, and the eyes are
not, therefore, symmetrically placed; but they are so with the
skate, whose head and whole body are equally disposed on either side
a longitudinal section. Hence the eyes of this fish are placed
symmetrically upon the uppermost side."--Philosophie Zoologique,
tom. i. pp. 250, 251. Edition C. Martins. Paris, 1873.

{274a} Essays on Heredity, etc., Oxford, 1889, p. 171.

{274b} Ibid., p. 266.

{275} Darwinism, 1889, p. 440.

{277} Page 83.

{279} Vol. i. p. 466, etc. Ed. 1885.

{286} Darwinism, p. 440.

{288} Tom. iv. p. 383. Ed. 1753.

{290} Essays, etc., p. 447.

{299} Zoonomia, 1794, vol. i. p. 480.

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